If you’re a techie like me, you may sometimes find it difficult to talk to and interact with non-techie people. In this post, I will share 5 essential soft skills you need in the workplace for career success.
For the first few years of my career, I was super oblivious to the fact that the non-tech people I worked with just didn’t understand me most of the time. Then when I finally realized that they didn’t understand me, I didn’t know what to do about it!
Luckily for me, I was able to find mentors at work that helped guide me on how to interact outside of my tech bubble.
If you’re in the technology space and have hopes of getting promoted, you really need to develop soft skills. These soft skills will help you interact with people from different parts of your organization.
To be completely honest, not having some of these soft skills may actually hinder your career progression. This is because those making the promotion decisions may not ‘get’ you and not even consider you. Sad but true.
While there are many soft skills that you can try to get, I am sharing the 5 essential workplace soft skills that you need. These are the same ones that personally helped me advance my career in IT.
What are Soft Skills?
First, what are soft skills?
Soft skills are those non-technical skills and abilities that help you navigate your workplace. It covers how you interact and communicate with colleagues as you manage your job duties.
Soft skills are essential in the workplace because they determine how well everyone interacts. These skills are used by individuals in different parts of the organization and are not limited to technical abilities.
Most people already have some soft skills from interacting with people outside of the workplace. For example, you can gain soft skills while working on team projects in school.
Don’t worry, even if you don’t have soft skills, you can develop them. In fact, everyone needs to continuously improve their soft skills to maintain them.
Below are 5 essential workplace soft skills that you need for career success in Information Technology.
Soft Skill #1: Communication
Communication is a vital part of every relationship, at work and outside work. As a technical person, it is very important to have good communication skills. This is because the technology you are working on does not exist on its own and is typically part of a larger ecosystem.
Communication refers to both written and verbal communication. As an IT person, you are constantly writing emails, sharing presentations, and discussing project tasks with others. So, you need the ability to communicate well both verbally and in writing.
There are various perspectives to communication, depending on your role and those you are working with.
You have to communicate well with your other technical peers. I have experienced too many examples of technical people that did not communicate well with other team members. They think they can do it all and fail to share information with other team members.
This causes confusion on the team and many times leads to issues. Software being developed may have bugs because all the teams that were working on the product did not communicate. It is way easier to build a better software product when everyone working on it communicates and collaborates openly about their various tasks.
You also have to communicate well with your users (your audience). When you work on projects for a user group, you need share technical concepts with them in an understandable way.
The effectiveness of your communication with your users will determine if they understand your work. Then they can give you clear feedback on what they like and don’t like about the work product.
This feedback then helps you build a better product that meets the need that your customers have. So, an effective communication loop with your customer is very important in helping you create products that they like.
The importance of communication as an essential workplace soft skill cannot be overestimated. If you don’t think you are effective in this area, look for mentors to help you develop better communication skills. You can also ask for feedback from your colleagues and managers.
Soft Skill #2: Interpersonal Skills
When you work with computers most of the time (maybe even working remotely), it is very easy to get disconnected from the people around us.
I have personally gone weeks without asking coworkers how they were doing outside of work! I know, that might sound a little anti-social. If you’ve done that too, please let me know I’m not alone by leaving a comment below. 😊
The reality is that we all have lives outside of work that might impact our work. So, it really helps to have coworkers that have empathy and great interpersonal skills that make us feel better.
As someone in IT, you need the skills that help you interact well with your customers and colleagues to foster better working relationships.
Using emotional intelligence, you can ‘read the room’ and interpret what people are saying (or not saying). The ability to ‘read the room’ well can impact the success of the work that you are doing.
I’ve sometimes noticed that colleagues are being a bit difficult because they have other pressures. So, I have to think of ways to still get the results I need from them without adding more stress.
The same goes for customers that may become unresponsive. I have to think of ways to get them back to the table to discuss because they are key project stakeholders.
This workplace soft skill cannot be overlooked because it sometimes means the difference between project success or failure.
Soft Skill #3: Time and Task Management
Have you ever heard the saying “Time is money”?
Well, it’s true and it applies to IT.
It is absolutely crucial for you to learn how to manage your time and tasks when you work in IT. Being late in completing your work can impact others on your team and your organization.
Imagine there is a critical project that needs to be complete in 30 days. You are supposed to finish your tasks on day 10 but you’re not done by day 25. That would throw off the whole project schedule and potentially cost your organization a lot of money.
I have worked with some individuals that had excellent technical skills but very poor time and task management skills. The truth is, I will pick someone with less technical skills and great time and task management skills over someone with excellent technical skills and poor time and task management skills. EVERY SINGLE TIME!
The reason is simple.
The person with poor time and task management skills is a huge risk to the success of my project. They may not complete their tasks on time!
I can work with the person with less technical skills by giving them quick feedback when they turn in their work on time. They can fix the issues and turn in the work again without delaying the project.
Practicing good time and task management is a must.
Once you have your work assigned, you need to create a Task Management Plan. This will help you keep track of your tasks against the timeline you have been given. Work with any team members that need to provide you information and understand it will be provided. Add all that information to your task management plan.
I have a FREE Time and Task Management Template for you. Simply complete the form below and one will be sent right to your inbox!
If you can practice this workplace soft skill, you are on track to a successful career.
Soft Skill #4: Creative/Critical Thinking
When you work in IT, you have to be creative in trying to solve your customer’s problems. IT is evolving at a very high speed, so solutions that worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.
As an IT professional, you have to show the ability to think critically and creatively about problems. This will help you propose solutions that are forward-thinking, strategic, and user friendly at the same time.
As a creative and critical thinker, you have to be flexible and not fixed in your thought patterns to ‘see’ solutions that are outside the box.
These are soft skills I have had to use all the time throughout my career as a consultant and project manager. I have to understand the customers’ problems and critically think of creative ways to solve them even better than they imagined!
This can be somewhat challenging to practice at times. You can start off by challenging yourself to identify one new approach to solve a problem each week. Then you can expand each new approach by analyzing it from different perspectives. Doing this consistently over some time will help you develop creative/critical thinking.
The ability to thinking creatively and critically is an essential workplace soft skill that will help you stand out from the crowd and be recognized.
Soft Skill #5: Networking, Networking, Networking
No man is an island. You need others to help you, and others need you to help them.
Networking is absolutely critical both for you to be successful in your current job and to advance in your career. Estimates state that about 85%of open positions are filled through networking.
Where you are now
In your current role, if you network with others, you often get ideas that you may not have thought of on your own. Networking helps to fuel your creativity, solve problems, and expand your knowledge about your work.
One of the results of networking with others can be the creation of a knowledge database for future reference. Many technical communities have databases that you can easily search to find possible solutions to technical issues.
Where you want to be
To advance your career, if you network with the right individuals, you gain access to those that can refer you for promotion. You need those making decisions about promotions to know that you are interested and capable of being promoted.
One way to let them know is by networking with them. This can be achieved by meeting with them and asking them for advice about your career advancement.
After I missed my first promotion opportunity early in my career, I talked to one of my bosses. Guess what? He said that they did not know I wanted to be promoted! I was floored because I had been working so hard to get promoted.
After hearing that, in addition to working hard, I let management know that I was interested, ready, and qualified for promotion. Sure enough, I was promoted during the next round of promotions.
If management doesn’t know that you are interested in a promotion, then you may not get promoted. Not because you are not qualified, but simply because management thinks you are comfortable in your current position.
Networking is one of the most essential workplace soft skills that you need to advance your career. If you don’t have a good network, start building one now. One way to start a network is to join LinkedIn groups that are in your field. If you have an IT Certification, you can also join online communities in that field.
I hope you found this blog post useful. Please leave comments and share how you use soft skills in your career. You can also share some interesting situations you encountered due to not having some soft skills. As always, feel free to ask me questions in the comments section as well.
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